Vaccinations & Antiviral Drugs
Vaccines and antiviral drugs are not the same thing:
- A vaccine is a drug that can prevent a virus from infecting you. Vaccines for a pandemic cannot be created in advance; labs must create a new vaccine for each influenza strain. This process can take many months.
- An antiviral drug lessens the symptoms you experience when you are infected with a virus and may shorten your recovery time.
Vaccines against pandemic influenza
When a suspected pandemic strain emerges, the World Health Organization (WHO) will provide Canada with an early warning so national vaccine production can begin.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, in partnership with the provinces and territories, established an Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan. The plan ensures appropriate steps are taken to protect Canadians, and that an influenza vaccine will be available to Canadians at the earliest possible time once one is produced.
Antiviral drugs to cope with pandemic influenza
Antiviral drugs do not provide immunity from a virus; antiviral drugs work by reducing the ability of the virus to reproduce. If antiviral drugs are taken within 48 hours of getting sick, these drugs can reduce influenza symptoms, shorten the length of the illness and potentially reduce serious complications.
The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Committee - a federal/provincial committee of communicable disease and public health experts - developed recommendations regarding the use of antivirals in a pandemic. Priority groups have been established and Saskatchewan will be using these priority groups for antiviral distribution during a pandemic.
Antiviral drugs are not likely to be available in sufficient quantities to treat the majority of the population.